Dave Heron was counting on a $900 annual payment from the Salt River First Nation next Monday in Yellowknife.
But Heron received a letter from the band on Wednesday, dated Oct. 30, 2017, telling him he is one of 145 members the Salt River First Nation has elected to exclude from the annual payment.
Heron said he's received the payment every year since becoming a member in 2010, and received no warning that he would be excluded this year.
"They're using us — 145 people — as a bargaining chip," Heron said. "To the band we're not even people, we're actually just a number that means dollars."
The money comes from the Treaty Land Entitlement signed in 2002 between the Salt River First Nation and the federal government.
At that time "757 members and their descendants" were considered beneficiaries, states a letter signed by Salt River First Nation Chief Frieda Martselos and the band's six councillors.
Since then, according to the statement, the federal government has added 145 new members to the band, diluting the per capita value of the original treaty agreement.
The band says it is acting on a motion passed unanimously in 2016 intended to protect the benefits of the treaty land entitlement by stopping payment to anyone who is not either "an original beneficiary or a descendant of an original beneficiary."
Now feels 'second class'
Chief Martselos was not available for comment Thursday, but the statement said now-excluded members should take their complaints to the federal government.
The letter states "Canada refused to pay any additional compensation" for the new members, and that if it did, the band would reinstate payments to those new members.
A spokesperson for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada said no one from the department was available Thursday for comment, but according to information found on the department's website, claim settlements are "complete and final."
"I feel like a second class native in my own band," Heron said.
He is considering making a complaint to the Human Rights commission.
"Obviously they're discriminating against their own band members. They've put aside 145 of us and said no you can't have any money and you are not a full member of our band."
Heron said he's lost trust in the chief and council. He thinks about the "145 different people and families that depend on this money for Christmas."
Heron said he will still go to the payment meeting even if he is denied the money. For him, the decision is "an embarrassment to all band members."
This story has been updated to reflect that fact that the payment Dave Heron expected to receive this year is $900, not $700.Nov 10, 2017 8:50 PM CT